Zero hours contracts remain a talking point. While most people would agree that they are open to abuse, they can be very useful to both employers and employees when used in the right way. As a result, finding a way of preventing unscrupulous employers from misusing them has proved difficult.
One of the more obvious problems with zero hours contracts was the practice of including an exclusivity clause into the contract, which meant that although the employer was under no obligation to provide the employee with work, the employee was prevented from seeking work elsewhere while under contract. Last year, such exclusivity clauses were rendered unenforceable. However, it was generally thought that this provision was unlikely to be particularly effective.
New regulations came into force in January which seek to provide teeth to the existing legislation. Employees who are on zero hours contracts will now be able to claim unfair dismissal (irrespective of their length of service) if the principal reason for their dismissal is that they have worked elsewhere. Workers who suffer a detriment for the same reason are also entitled to bring a claim.
There will, of course, be an evidential battle between employers and employees or workers as to the reason why someone has not been offered work under a zero hours contract, and the Employment Tribunal will need to find that an exclusivity clause exists in the contract.
Whether employees or workers are likely to litigate on this point remains to be seen.